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Iraq and al-Qaeda Untied

Much is being disputed about the contents and conclusions asserted within the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report attempting to compare, in three major sections, prewar Iraq intelligence estimates with postwar Iraq findings regarding ‘Iraq’s WMD Capabilities,’ ‘Iraqi Links to al-Qaeda’ and ‘Regime Intent.’ While it is being currently touted in media reports with the air of a comprehensive and definitive assessment, it is decidedly neither. This is the introduction of a collaborative series of analytical reviews of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report titled, “Postwar Findings About Iraq’s WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism And How They Compare With Prewar Assessments.”

By the report’s own acknowledgement, there has yet to be produced a “‘fully researched, coordinated and approved position’ on the postwar reporting on the former regime’s links to al-Qa’ida” by the Intelligence Community with which to compare to prewar assessments. Furthermore, especially with regard to WMD capabilities and ‘Regime Intent,’ the incredibly thorough Iraqi Perspectives Project postwar study produced by United States Joint Forces Command, Joint Center for Operational Analysis, was not even considered with other postwar assessments.

Rather than cite such reports for its postwar input, the SSIC preferred to quote testimony in several instances from both Saddam Hussein and his Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz (among others). Both are in custody and on trial. As Tom Joscelyn rightly points out, these men—“all of whom have an obvious incentive to lie—are cited or quoted without caveats of any sort.”

Nor, apparently, did the Committee consider the prewar intelligence cited by Stephen Hayes in November, 2003. Hayes exposes in the referenced article many connections, not the least of which were multiple sources corroborating multiple Iraqi meetings with bin-Laden in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Iraqis – including the deputy director of the Iraqi Intelligence Services. Included in an October 2003 memo from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy to the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee was a clarifying note saying, “Reporting entries #4, #11, #15, #16, #17, and #18, from different sources, corroborate each other and provide confirmation of meetings between al Qaeda operatives and Iraqi intelligence in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

This is seemingly dismissed and not included as noteworthy prewar intelligence for consideration, just as the Iraqi Perspectives Project was dismissed from consideration for postwar findings.

While early in the SSIC report it mentions the attempt to create an intelligence “baseline,” the conclusions are written in a language that purports them as definitive. In fact, Conclusion 9 on page 112 reads, “While document exploitation continues, additionalreviews of documents recovered in Iraq are unlikely to provide information that would contradict the Committee’s findings or conclusions.”

This is an ill advisedly bold statement, and notes Michael Tanji, who has been involved in the Iraqi document exploitation process, “[S]aying that you have a strong grasp on what was and wasn’t going on in Iraq based on an “initial review” is akin to saying that you don’t need to read the bible because you’ve memorized the ten commandments.”

This hardly scratches the surface of the report’s inadequate considerations, inconsistencies and, therefore, erroneous conclusions. There are a great many aspects of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report that must be swiftly addressed, in particular the data used and conclusions asserted regarding the connections between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaeda.

It is imperative that the American public be presented with a more complete picture than the seemingly selective data points utilized by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report.

To this end, ThreatsWatch and Mark Eichenlaub of Regime of Terror are working together in order to provide an extensive analysis to the general public in a more easily digested format. This analysis will be produced and published as a series of focused examinations of the conclusions tendered by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s report as it pertains to the connections between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaeda terrorists.